Summer isn’t even here yet and already I am thinking of the fall and winter months. There is nothing more disheartening than having to succumb to the purchase of vegetables from your local grocery store during the cold winter months. Seeing as how I live in Ontario, Canada – we only get about 4 months of “growing” weather each year. For the remaining 8 months, I am stuck buying wilted, stale and sometimes even half rotten veggies from my local grocery stores. To say I am constantly disappointed is putting it lightly.
It’s depressing as hell and well, I’m kind of tired of doing it. So I’m thinking, this summer I am going to take the time to prepare an indoor garden so I may grow year-round. Can it be done? Absolutely! With the proper space and lighting, you can grow almost anything indoors.
Let’s discuss the basics of what is needed, things you need to take into consideration and what can be grown in your home, all year-round.
So as we already know, in order to grow anything you need soil, water and light. Easy enough right? Well, no, not really. You need the right container for the soil, a proper, healthy soil mix, water should be distilled (not tap) and light, that is the tricky part. Let’s break them all down for you, shall we?
Depending on what you are growing, you will need various sizes of containers. For example, my watermelons are currently sitting in 12” pots, even though I know full well that they would be best suited in a larger pot. This was a conscious decision that I made, knowing full well the implications of using a smaller pot (smaller pot = smaller melons). So, depending on what you wish to produce… you will want the right size pot to ensure a healthy growth. Take a look at the chart below to see what size pots are adequate for growing what:
4-5″ Pot: chives, lettuce, radishes, coriander, lavender (herb), tarragon, lemon balm, and most other herbs
6-7″ Pot: bush beans, garlic, onions, bok choy, peas, mint, thyme
8-9″ Pot: pole beans, carrots, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary, radicchio, strawberries
10-12″ Pot: beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, dill, lemongrass, cherry tomatoes, kale, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, zucchini
18-24” Pot: Bush tomatoes, pumpkins, watermelon, butternut squash, cantaloupe, honeydew, papaya, spaghetti squash
For soil, you can use something like Miracle-Gro potting soil mixture – but personally I like to make my own mix using black earth and sheep manure compost. I’ve had nothing but success using this method and I have quite literally grown cucumbers that have been longer than my forearm. However, with that in mind, not all plants like the same types of soil. Corn prefers a more acidic soil, whereas sweet potatoes prefer a more sandy soil. Strawberries, on the other hand, need rich soil with loads of organic matter and a slightly acidic pH (between 5.5 and 6.5) – you can adjust the acidity of your soil by simply adding vinegar to your soil at a ratio of 1 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of water – simply poured directly onto the soil. If you need to reduce the acidity in the soil, adding lime, ashes from a wood burning fireplace or adding mulch/organic matter is a great way to reduce the acid levels in your soil. Purchasing PH testing kits to test your soil on a regular basis is also a very good practice to ensure a healthy crop.
Now, you can use regular tap water on your growing veggies and fruits, but because the water is chemically cleaned and contains many particles and salts that you don’t really want in your food – I think it’s not the best means for your growing crops. For your indoor garden, I would recommend distilled water – the lack of minerals helps to keep your crops crisper for longer. While it may not always be feasible to use distilled water, you should at least try for 60% of the water being distilled. Trust me, your crops will thank you!
This is a much-debated topic – what kind of lights and how much light. Most plants and veggies require a MINIMUM of 6 hours of DIRECT sunlight. So, how do we manufacture this type of light if (like me) you live in an area where, in the dead of winter we get 8 hours of sunlight and because it’s indoors, it is not direct sunlight. The easy and cheap solution is fluorescent lights with 6500k bulbs. Or two lights (each holding 2 bulbs) and with a rotation of a 6500k bulb and a 3000k bulb – what does all this mean? Your plants require a full spectrum of light when they are in the vegetative (growing) state – a 6500k fluorescent bulb mimics full spectrum daylight. However, once your plants start to bloom (fruiting) they require a little more “red” light to help with the growth of the bloom and that is where your 3000k bulb comes in. Now you can in fact only use 6500k bulbs and still produce a healthy crop, but by adding in a 3000k bulb, you will produce slightly more.
WHAT ABOUT HEAT & VENTILATION?
Growing a garden indoors, year-round – you will require good ventilation. Pick a spot in the home that is wide open and offers a good “cross breeze” (not a closed-off bedroom or closet unless you’re planning to install its own ventilation system in said space. The heat in the home should be a minimum of 65F (18C) at all times. It’s fine for the temperatures to fluctuate in the summer months when it gets much warmer than 65F but in the cooler months, it should never dip below that.
SO THERE YOU HAVE IT!
No matter your living situation, you can have access to wonderfully fresh fruits and veggies all year-round with a little dedication (and determination lol). It doesn’t matter if you live in a great big mansion or a small apartment, and it doesn’t matter your climate either – you can create an artificial climate in your home 365 days a year so that you can grow your own food and enjoy fresh, organic fruits and veggies from within your own home saving you money and having the added benefit of knowing exactly where your food is coming from.
It doesn’t get any better than that! 🙂